Four Sandwiches

—Washington, D.C.

JC was called the Rack   
at the work farm,   
aluminum milk pails   
dangling from his hands.   
Once a sudden fist
crushed the cartilage of nose
across his face,
but JC only grinned,
and the man with the fist   
stumbled away.

JC sings his work farm songs on the street,   
swaying with black overcoat and guitar,   
cigarettes cheaper than food.
But today he promises
four sandwiches, two for each of us.

The landlady, a Rumanian widow,
has nailed a death mask   
over JC’s bed,
sleeping plaster face   
of a drowned girl
peaceful in the dark.

As the girl contemplates water   
and pigeons batter the window,   
JC spreads the last deviled ham   
on two slices of bread,
presses them together,
then slowly tears four pieces.

“Here,” he almost sings,   
“four sandwiches.”

Martin Espada, "Four Sandwiches" from Imagine the Angels of Bread. Copyright © 1996 by Martin Espada.  Used by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Source: Imagine the Angels of Bread (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1996)